My Mac froze in the middle of an update! What should I do?

Updating to a new version of macOS is usually fairly straightforward, but from time-to-time you may encounter difficulties.

Maybe there isn’t enough space available on your Mac; perhaps Apple’s servers have gone down, or maybe the worst has happened and your Mac has locked up midway through installing the latest version of macOS.

If your Mac does encounter difficulties when downloading or installing the latest release, then don’t panic! In this article, I’m going to show exactly what you need to do, in order to get your macOS update back on track.

Struggling to download the installer?

The first step to updating your Mac, is to download the appropriate installer. However, there may be times when this important file simply refuses to download, which makes it impossible to update your Mac.

If you’re struggling to download the macOS installer, then there’s a chance that Apple’s servers could be to blame. Whenever a new version of macOS is released, enthusiastic Apple users have a tendency to rush to get their hands on it, which can cause Apple’s servers to become overwhelmed, or even knock them offline completely.

You can check whether there’s any known issues with Apple’s servers, at their System Status page. If one or more issues are displayed alongside the ‘macOS update’ section, then you’ll know that the fault lies with Apple, and not with your Mac or network connection.

Unfortunately, when there’s a problem with the macOS update servers, there’s not much you can do except wait for Apple to resolve the problem.

If Apple’s servers appear to be online and functioning correctly, then the next step is to check your Internet connection. We have a number of articles on how to boost your Wi-Fi signal, or diagnose why your Mac is struggling to connect to the Internet. However, as a quick fix you may get positive results by moving your Mac closer to the router, or connecting to your network using an ethernet cable, which tends to result in a stronger, faster Internet connection.

If you can’t detect any issues with your connection, then cancelling and restarting the download can sometimes resolve a whole host of miscellaneous problems:

  • Open a new ‘Finder’ window.
  • Navigate to ‘Applications,’ and launch the App Store.
  • Select the ‘Updates’ tab, and locate the system update that you’re struggling to download.
  • Press the ‘Option/Alt’ key, and then cancel the download when prompted.
  • Once the download has been cancelled successfully, start it again by clicking the ‘Update’ button. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck the second time around!

If none of the above fixes work, then you may also want to try downloading the latest version of macOS directly from Apple’s website.

Has your update really frozen?

In the worst case scenario, your Mac will hit a problem midway through installing a new release of macOS. For example, maybe the dreaded spinning beach ball pops up onscreen; the progress bar stalls for a worryingly long period of time, or the screen goes black.

If this happens, then don’t panic.

Installing a new version of macOS is one of the most time-consuming tasks you’ll perform on your Mac, so just because the progress bar hasn’t moved recently, doesn’t mean it’s never going to move again! Plus, force-closing your Mac midway through a system update can result in you losing important data, so before taking action you must be certain that your Mac really has frozen.

The best way to check, is to do nothing at all! While it’s frustrating, if you do manage to tear yourself away from your Mac for a few hours, there’s a chance that you may return to discover that the installation was a success – your Mac wasn’t frozen at all, it was just seriously slow!

If patience isn’t your strong point, then pressing the ‘Command+L’ keys will display some additional information about how much longer the installation is going to take, and which files are currently being installed, which can help you distinguish between a frozen update, and a slow update.

Finally, sitting there and watching the progress bar is almost guaranteed to make you worry that the installation has stalled, so wherever possible you should install new versions of macOS overnight, or when you can step away from your Mac for a few hours.

What to do if your Mac freezes, mid-update

If you’re positive that the installation really has frozen, then you’ll have no choice but to restart your Mac manually, by holding down the ‘Power’ button.

If you do have to resort to force-quitting your Mac, then once it’s up and running again you should use Disk Utility to check for any damage:

  • Navigate to ‘Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.’
  • In the left-hand menu, select your startup drive.
  • Click the ‘First Aid’ button.

  • When prompted, select ‘Verify.’

If Disk Utility flags up any problems, then you’ll typically need to boot into Recovery Mode in order to perform the necessary repairs:

  • Restart your Mac while holding down the ‘Command+R’ keys.
  • Release these keys when you see the Apple logo.
  • In the ‘macOS Utilities’ window, select ‘Disk Utility.’
  • Follow the onscreen instructions, to perform the necessary repairs.

Before you go

After spending over 20 years working with Macs, both old and new, theres a tool I think would be useful to every Mac owner who is experiencing performance issues.

CleanMyMac is highest rated all-round cleaning app for the Mac, it can quickly diagnose and solve a whole plethora of common (but sometimes tedious to fix) issues at the click of a button. It also just happens to resolve many of the issues covered in the speed up section of this site, so Download CleanMyMac to get your Mac back up to speed today.


About the author


I've been a passionate evangelist for Apple and the Macintosh throughout my working life, my first love was a Quadra 605 working with a small creative agency in the south of Norfolk UK in the mid 1990's, I later progressed to other roles in other Macintosh dominated industries, first as a Senior graphic designer at a small printing company and then a production manager at Guardian Media Group. As the publishing and printing sector wained I moved into Internet Marketing and in 2006 co-founded which grew to become one the top 200 visited sites in the US (according to Quantcast), at its peak receiving over 15 million visits per month. For the last ten years I have worked as an Affiliate and Consultant to many different business and start ups, my key skill set being online marketing, on page monetisation, landing page optimisation and traffic generation, if you would like to hire me or discuss your current project please reach out to me here.

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